Finding Meaning – David Kessler

David Kessler
Finished ~ March 31st, 2022
  • Avoiding grief
    • Something goes out of alignment when we try to avoid sadness and grief.
    • Life gives us pain. Our job is to experience it when it gets handed to us. Avoidance of loss has a cost. Having our pain seen and seeing the pain in others is a wonderful medicine for both body and soul.
    • When you hear someone repeating his grief story over and over, that means his grief has not been witnessed in a healthy way.
  • I want to know, are you still at your loved one’s deathbed? Are you still hearing the bad news? Are you still at the funeral? Where are you and when are you?
    … In grief, we often entangle the past, present, and future.
  • The parable of the long spoons illustrates this point. A person is ushered through the gates of hell where he is surprised to find that they are made of finely wrought gold. They are exquisite, as is the lush green landscape that lies beyond them. He looks at this guide in disbelief. “It’s all so beautiful,” he says. “The sight of the meadows and mountains. The sounds of the birds singing in the trees and the scent of thousands of flowers. This can’t be hell.”
    When the tantalizing aroma of a gourmet meal catches his attention, he enters a large dining hall. There are rows of tables laden with platters of sumptuous food, but the people setated are the tables are pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As he gets closer, he sees that each person is holding a spoon, but the spoon is so long he can’t get the food to his mouth. Everyone is screaming and starving in agony.
    Now he goes to another area were he encounters the same beauty he witnessed in hell. He sees the same scene in the dining hall with the same long spoons. But here in heaven the people seated at the tables are cheerfully talking and eating because on person if feeding someone sitting across from him.
    Heaven and hell offer the same circumstances and conditions. The difference is in the way people treat each other. Choosing to be kind creates one kind of reality. Choosing to be self-centered creates another.
  • When I ask people why they woke up this morning, they have no idea why I would want to know. But they dutifully go through the motions of telling me that the alarm clock woke them, or the sun, or the dog that jumped on their bed. I then remind them that although the sun rose this morning, many people didn’t wake up to see it. Though alarms went off in houses all over the world, there were people who didn’t hear them because they were dead. Some dogs jumped on beds to find that their owners had died. You didn’t justhappen to wake up this morning, I tell them. You woke up for a reason, and that reason isfor the purpose of finding meaning in your life.
  • When you consider how to find meaning in your life, you probably think only the big moment count. But they all do. Whether you’re donating a million dollars to a worthy cause or saying a kind word to the checkout person at the grocery store, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, or jus being considerate to the driver trying to enter the lane in front of you, everything you do has the potential for meaning.
  • Forgiveness
    • I use four ways to forgive
      1. I picture the person as an infant. They were born innocent
      2. I think of them growing up and someone wounding them. Wounded people wound people. They wound you because that is how they have been taught.
      3. You can forgive the person, but not the action. Maybe the stupid thing they said at the funeral does feel unforgivable. But you have had twenty years of friendship.
      4. I remember that I’m not perfect, either.
    • The incident you are holding on to is over. Perhaps it’s long over. It will help you to remember that forgiveness is seldom for “them.” It is for you.
  • According to the Dalai Lama, buddhists believe that children who die young are masters who come to earth to teach us about impermanence. I can only hope that’s true, but I wish I’d leaned that lesson in a less painful way.
  • Al-Anon “three C’s”
    1. We didn’t cause it.
    2. We cannot control it.
    3. We cannot cure it.
  • One night I happened to come upon a documentary calledFacing the Storm, about the buffalos in Montana. Robert Thomson of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks discussed how the buffalo run into the storm, thus minimizing how long they will be in it. They don’t ignore it, run from it, or just hope it will go away, which is what we often do when we want to avoid our storms of emotions. We don’t realize that by doing this we’re maximizing our time in the pain. The avoidance of grief will only prolong the pain of Grief. Better to turn toward it and allow it to run its natural course, knowing that the pain will eventually pass, that one of these days we will find the love on the other side of pain.
  • When is it time to move into the love? When you feel that you have fully felt the pain. Even when you do, it will hurt again. It will just hurt less, and less often. Moving into love begins with realizing the love was always there. It was there in the good times, in the illness, in the death, and in the grief. It was never absent, even in the worst moments, and it is still there. Death is not strong enough to end love.